It was ‘one of those days’. You know the ones. Exhaustion hung off me like humidity and the cloud around my brain seemed to move me in the direction of whatever didn’t really need doing, totally missing what was most important.
It was a hazy, lazy, lethargic, static, sticky kind of day. I’d forgotten the shoes, showed up at the wrong time, left my keys behind and all such things that makes a person ask, how have I actually made it this far in life?
Running behind to meet a friend who was picking me up a bus and sky train ride away, I stood at the bus stop, toddler in tow and discovered I’d left my wallet behind, locked in my dad’s house. At this very moment the bus pulled up and I decided to appeal to human kindness.
I told the driver I’d misplaced my wallet and could I ride for free. He was hard and clearly annoyed but with a jam packed bus awaiting his response, he waved me on, averting my eyes.
Now, it’s not like I don’t lose things. I mean, I lose my keys so often, I don’t even consider them lost. They’re either with me or in that otherland they hang out in until they’re with me again. But as much as my personal organization can leave something to be desired, I generally move through life with great confidence and power. It is much more common for me to be looking for where I can help than to be asking for it and even being in touch with that I have needs at all, comes with effort. It takes quite a bit to shake my feeling of competence, to have me feel somehow in need. But my goodness did I ever feel fragile.
I realized that I would need a transfer to ride the sky train and though I dreaded facing the cold bus driver, I asked if he’d be willing to give me one. Through gritted teeth he said “Transfers are for paying customers.”
“Oh, I uh…” I totally stammered. I felt so vulnerable I had no idea what to say. I guess having been on the other side of people’s needs and having been willing to give, I was a bit taken aback.
“I said they’re for paying customers, what do you want?” he spat. “I give you a finger and now you’re asking for a hand?!” I’m sure he must have to deal with this all the time, but in my state, I felt slapped.
“Wow, you sure have compassion eh? Never mind, I’ll sort it out.” I could feel the part of me that I so heavily rely on trying to step up. The independent, self reliant super woman was going to sort this out. Then something strange happened. It was like my vulnerability was so transparent that the whole bus began to organize around me.
A woman stood up and helped my son into a seat. A young man told me that he’d lost his wallet a few times, reassuringly relating. Two women put their hands on my shoulders. I could feel myself starting to well up. A man walked towards me from the back of the bus with so much compassion in his face that I burst into tears. He reached out and handed me a five dollar bill. Another woman pushed through the crowd with a hand full of tissue.
No one else said anything, but they all stood looking at me, soft eyes and smiles. I felt small, I felt silly, I felt held and I felt loved. I felt humbled and astonished and grateful. I felt the well of compassion that can fill the human spirit in the most ordinary of moments. I felt so met by these people in my raw and messy moment that I totally opened in love. I felt the irritation that I had towards that bus driver melt enough that I could even thank him for the free ride as I stepped off the bus.
But the best part was when my son looked up at my tears and asked if I was sad, I could say “No honey, I am very very happy.”